The Optical Collection Suite (OCS) is a ground-truth sampling system designed to perform in situ measurements that help calibrate and validate optical remote-sensing and swath-sonar surveys for mapping and monitoring coastal ecosystems and ocean planning. The OCS system enables researchers to collect underwater imagery with real-time feedback, measure the spectral response, and quantify the water clarity with simple and relatively inexpensive instruments that can be hand-deployed from a small vessel. This article reviews the design and performance of the system, based on operational and logistical considerations, as well as the data requirements to support a number of coastal science and management projects. The OCS system has been operational since 2009 and has been used in several ground-truth missions that overlapped with airborne lidar bathymetry (ALB), hyperspectral imagery (HSI), and swath-sonar bathymetric surveys in the Gulf of Maine, southwest Alaska, and the US Virgin Islands (USVI). Research projects that have used the system include a comparison of backscatter intensity derived from acoustic (multibeam/interferometric sonars) versus active optical (ALB) sensors, ALB bottom detection, and seafloor characterization using HSI and ALB.